Georgia higher education leaders are expected this month to approve plans to fold Southern Polytechnic State University into Kennesaw State University.
The state's university system chancellor, Hank Huckaby, will ask the Board of Regents to approve the merger of the two schools. Both are four-year universities.
The merger is the latest in a series of consolidations across the system. State officials say the mergers strengthen the combined campuses and save money on administration and operations. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the move shocked Southern Poly's 6,500 students.
"The emotions I have range from angry to shocked to disgusted," student Eric R. Cooney Jr. told the newspaper.
Under Huckaby's plan, Kennesaw State University President Dan Papp would continue to serve as president of the consolidated institution, which will still be based in Kennesaw. The move will boost the school's enrollment to more than 31,000 students. That will make it the third largest institution in the state university system.
Huckaby initially suggested exploring mergers in the financially strapped system in the fall of 2011, early in his tenure. The first round of mergers were completed earlier this year, giving the system 31 separate schools, down from 35.
Georgia's network of colleges grew considerably in the decades following the HOPE scholarship program financed by the state's lottery. State lawmakers added to the bounty with direct taxpayer support of the campuses. But the system has lost almost $1.4 billion in state money over the past six years amid sagging state tax revenues. Student tuition payments once covered about a quarter of the system's costs. Their share is now more than half.
Southern Poly was founded in 1948 and operated has operated as an intimate campus in the shadow of the more widely known Georgia Tech. But it commanded a loyal, if small, base of supporters. Cooney said his family has either worked at the campus or attended the school throughout the past 50 years.
"If I wanted a degree from KSU I would have gone there," Cooney said, "but I wanted a degree I felt carried a little more respect and was focused on practical knowledge."
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